Illumination of Rabban Gamaliel from the Sarajevo Haggadah, circa 1350. From the collection of the National Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Sarejevo.
According to tradition, Gamaliel succeeded his father, Simon, and his grandfather, the renowned sage Hillel (to whose school of thought he belonged), as nasi (president) of the Sanhedrin, the supreme Jewish court. He is revered in both Jewish and Christian tradition. The Sarajevo Haggadah was created more than six hundred years ago in Spain. It is not known why Rabban Gamaliel would have been illustrated in this book, but haggadot like this were privately commissioned and the family would have included images of themselves as well as people they admired. Under Muslim rule, the medieval Jewish community in Spain was a thriving, affluent community. In 1492, when the Christians reconquered Spain, the Jews were expelled and were able to take only a few possessions. Books like this haggadah would have been treasured family heirlooms. In 1894, the Sarajevo Haggadah was sold to the National Museum in Sarajevo, where it now resides.